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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Getting a Leg Up - First Steps Toward a Gaming Table

With the decision made to go ahead and try to build my own version of the Geek Chic Spartan Table, step one was to reverse engineer the plans and layout of the original as much as possible. The Geek Chic site was down (and has since been taken over by malware cyber-squatters - don't go there!), but some versions of the PDF brochures could still be found along with a few photos and videos posted by the lucky few to actually receive a table. The first decision I made was not to do an exact copy of the Spartan, but rather to make a couple of modifications I thought would make the table more user-friendly. In the original Spartan design, there was a shelf which covered the entire bottom of the table (and essentially served as a key structural piece). This means that no one could sit next to the table itself in a chair as they would either be resting their feet on the maple (bad idea) or would simply have to be back from the table at all times. This would be okay if the rail system was in use 100% of the time with attachments, but as I figured that would most likely not be the case, I decided to push back that cross member to be even with the doors (and the back plate on the opposite side).

This had a few immediate consequences. First it meant that the construction and assembly of the table would be quite different from the exemplar. The Spartan uses "L" shaped legs and screws into the corners for the bottom structural support and top. With these legs now essentially "floating" (though still attached to the end boards) I decided to go ahead and make them square legs with wood all around. The cross member would still attach to the bottom shelf, but would also serve as the track for the doors and back panel, and the bottom shelf assembly would attach to the bottom rails on the end panels. 

I also worked with my woodworker friend to finalize the dimensions and basic construction layout of the table based on the photos and videos of the real thing. The vaulted playing surface would be 4' x 6' - and all of the other dimensions were pretty much scaled to match the Spartan with those specs. With some rough sketches and dimensions together, it was time to go wood shopping!!!! I really loved the walnut and maple combination used on the original Spartan, so that's the direction I decided to go. Fortunately the local area has some good sources of really beautiful hardwood and maple veneer plywood.

Given the legs and side-panels would be pivotal to the overall construction of the table, we decided to start with the legs. As I was going for fully squared legs, we first cut 16 boards a little longer than would be needed for each leg. Using a biscuit joiner, we then assembled a series of eight right angles which would ultimately be biscuit joined to create the final leg assemblies (see photo above). This step began my long-term relationship with wood glue, clamps, and ultimately blue painter's tape!

Once the glue had dried on the half legs, the halves were put together with hardwood cores top and bottom. Marine-grade epoxy with thickener was used to attach the hardwood inserts. The purpose of the insert at the top is to serve as strengthening for the attachment bolts for the tabletop. The insert at the bottom has the sockets for screw-in adjustable leveling feet. The glued legs are visible above, along with some of the leftover painter's tape used to protect the surface wood from stray wood glue (which would show up after finishing).

We then used a planer to work the legs down to a perfectly square configuration. This took several passes on each face of each leg. In some cases we had to use a brace because of a slight board offset to ensure the legs were square in cross section, rather than a parallelogram. At each step we double checked the legs with a square to ensure we weren't getting off track.

Ultimately we ended up with four really nice looking legs with really beautiful grain structure in them (shown above). This was probably the longest step in the process - largely because there was a roughly 2 year hiatus between the initial purchase of the wood and creating the "L" segments and actually assembling them into the legs. Getting the legs together and planed was a roughly 3 week process as I could only really get by on the weekends to work on the project.

One other fun trick I learned is the use of denatured alcohol to bring out the wood grain on a project (shown above). This gives you sort of a preview of what the piece will look like once you've added a finish to it, and based on the results above, I was already liking what I was seeing!

So the corners of the table were assembled, but that left a lot to go, including a lot of fairly challenging engineering. Next time I'll go into the next steps in creating the critical end panels for the table.


  1. Hi, Fingolfin;
    Thanks for posting this! It is very encouraging, as I am trying to acquire a Spartan or commission a reconstruction of one for myself.
    Yours is looking very good and I look forward to seeing it.

    1. Thanks! It's getting there. I'm hoping it will be done before summer. :D